Srinagar, Feb 21: Mahashivratri (Herath) was celebrated with religious fervour in Jammu and Kashmir on Friday. Kashmiri Pandit devotees went to temples early in the morning to mark their presence. Hundreds of devotees went to Kher bhawani temple at Tulmulla in central Kashmirs Ganderbal. Special mantras were recited at Shankaracharya, Hanuman Mandir and Ganpat Yaar temples which were followed by prayers in the evening. Muslims exchanged Herath greetings to their Pandit friends in different localities of the erstwhile State. The temples were decorated days with different colours and flowers. “The occasion is celebrated throughout J&K and has a special significance for Kashmiri Pandits,” Bota Ram from Trichal Pulwama said. He added that valley’s Pandits celebrate it with different customs and unique rituals. “In the Valley on the 2nd day of the festival a special occasion called Salaam or Watak Pooja is performed in every Pundit Gharana”, he said. “Maha Shivaratri calls for a night devoted to worship of Lord Shiva. This event happens to be in the intervening night of 13th and 14th of the month of Phagun Shivaratri holds immense value for Hindus and is a big day for the devotees of Lord Shiva.” It is believed that Lord Shiva married Parvati on this night who prayed enthusiastically for the wellbeing of Lord Shiva. According to Hindu mythology, when Parvati asked Lord Shiva which ritual he liked best, Lord Shiva proclaimed that the services and rituals performed by his devotees on the 14th night of the Phagun month delighted him the most. On this day the devotees take an early morning bath and throng into the nearby Shiva Temple in order to seek blessings from Lord Shiva and make offerings to the deity. “The devotees strictly perform all the rituals of Mahashivratri as it is considered to be an auspicious day to worship Lord Shiva, and it is assumed that they will be cleared of their past sins”, said Anita Koul. Keertans are a major highlight which features chanting, reading of the verses, and singing the praises of Lord Shiva. Chanting of the mantra ‘Om Namah Shivaya’ is very prominent on this day. One is supposed to remain awake all through the night, on Mahashivratri and keep a night long vigil. Fasting is firmly observed throughout the day and the devotees break their fast early next morning by eating the ‘prasad’ offered to the idol.